Science News 10/06/2011

G12 antibody identifies gluten in some oat varieties

Oats have been a source of controversy in the gluten-free world for years, as people debate whether or not they are gluten-free. A recent study has the answer: maybe.

The study, published in GUT - An International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, examined several different oat varieties. The oats were analyzed via both an ELISA test and a western blot, using the G12 antibody. This antibody, developed by Biomedal, the University of Seville and Stanford University, specifically reacts to the 33-mer peptide, the fraction of gluten toxic to those with celiac disease.

Results indicated that the oats could be split into three distinct groups: those with no detectable reactivity / no detectable gluten, those with a slight reactivity, and those with high reactivity.

This discovery is notable for two reasons: first, it shows that cross-contamination where oats are grown or processed is not the only reason why someone with celiac disease might react negatively. Secondly, the success of the G12 antibody opens a pathway to identifying truly gluten-free varieties of oat, which can be safely ingested by all celiacs. Currently there is no international consensus on whether or not oats should be part of a gluten-free diet, and as many as 1 in 10 American celiacs currently have negative reactions even oats that are labeled gluten-free.

“Oats are probably the most confusing food out there for many celiacs,” said Emily Kaufman, president of Emport LLC. “A lot of the information available online is misleading, outdated, or just plain wrong, so this research is a huge clarification for the gluten-free community.”

Whereas wheat contains a protein called gliadin, oats contain avenin. The concentration of gluten in avenin is estimated to be 40 to 400 times weaker than that in gliadin, which partially explains why many celiacs can tolerate oats. Research indicates that most — but not all — people with celiac disease can ingest up to 50mg of gluten a day without adverse effects.

Because it uses the same G12 antibodies as the study, GlutenTox Home can provide celiacs with a means to incorporate or exclude certain oat varieties from their diets. In fact, the study results were replicated when researchers at Biomedal used GlutenTox Home to test the same oat varieties. The test is also able to detect gluten from wheat, barley and rye, and works with foods, drinks, medications and cosmetics.

di S. C.